Navigating through complexities of Managing People

Management is a complex task. As a manager, you are continually faced with problems that need solving and decisions that need to be made. Making decisions is not easy, but it is a major part of a manager's role.

As a new manager, you may be worried about making the wrong decision, but making no decision at all is rarely a satisfactory option. Employees expect good leadership and sound decisions from their managers. Failure to deliver these will result in frustrated and disillusioned staff members.

Put simply, decision making is about choosing between alternative possible courses of action. Routine decisions – for example, which call to make next – usually do not require a lot of thought or planning. However, more complex decisions which involve several people, and which may have far-reaching consequences, are better made when they are informed and considered.

Before you can even begin to make a decision, it is crucial that you identify exactly what the problem is. Once you have done this, you can determine what you expect your decision to achieve. This will enable you to ensure that all of the necessary factors are considered before you reach a final decision and take action.

Once you have identified your issue, you should structure your decision-making approach as follows:

Gather necessary information – Gathering information will help you to make a more informed decision. Some information may need to be analyzed. Do not use a lack of information as an excuse for procrastination.

Consider the options – Once you have all of the information, you will be in a better position to decide between possible courses of action. You may have identified specific criteria to help you to weigh the options.

Make a choice – You may choose to seek advice from others at this point. As a new manager, your own manager or mentor may be in a good position to help you. He or she will probably have dealt with similar situations in the past.

Implement the decision – Depending upon the nature of the decision, you may have to seek authorization from more senior managers before you can proceed. Remember that a decision cannot really be effective until it has been implemented.

Monitor the success of the decision – As always, it is important to monitor the action taken. If things do not seem to be going to plan, then it may become necessary to return to point three, and reconsider your options.

As a new manager, you will find it easier, and more effective, to use a structured approach when making decisions. Once you become more comfortable with your role, you may be able to adapt your approach. The steps involved are logical, but under pressure it can be reassuring to have a process to follow. Of course, sometimes it is not possible to follow such a structured path, because

  • information or time is limited
  • you have a decision forced upon you
  • the number of available options is limited
  • intuition replaces a rational approach
  • implementation is impeded

As a manager, people are expecting you to solve problems. They want you to make informed decisions based on appropriate information, which is given due consideration. They are expecting you to identify the most effective course of action, and implement and monitor it carefully.

At first, decision making can be daunting. Using a structured approach will help you to consider all aspects and come to a sound conclusion. It can be tempting to think that the process is over once a decision has been made, but do not forget to check that the decision really is solving the problem and meeting the objectives identified at the outset.